Yesterday, several thousand women marched through Cairo in what historians described as the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history.
Around 10,000 women marched through central Cairo demanding Egypt’s ruling military step down Tuesday in an unprecedented show of outrage over soldiers who dragged women by the hair and stomped on them, and stripped one half-naked in the street during a fierce crackdown on activists the past week.
The dramatic protest, which grew as the women marched from Tahrir Square through downtown, was fueled by the widely circulated images of abuses of women. Many of the marchers touted the photo of the young woman whose clothes were partially pulled off by troops, baring her down to her blue bra, as she struggled on the ground.
Although activists say the video of the “blue-bra girl,” which made the rounds in the U.S. this weekend, wasn’t as widely seen in Egypt, many Egyptian women seem to have been outraged by the way the military dismissed the brutality against the anonymous protester. At a news conference on Monday, a member of the ruling military council claimed the video was taken out of context (uh, sure) and brushed off a female journalist who demanded an apology to the women of Egypt.
Funny how fast that tune can change after thousands of women take to the streets…
Even before the protest was over, the military council issued an unusually strong statement of regret for what it called “violations” against women — a quick turnaround after days of dismissing the significance of the abuse.
The council expressed “deep regret to the great women of Egypt” and affirmed “its respect and total appreciation” for women and their right to protest and take part in political life. It promised it was taking measures to punish those responsible for violations.
Some protestors said the quick contrition was just a response to harsh criticism from the U.S. “This is an apology to one woman, Hilary Clinton,” said one. Color me just as cynical. After all, this is the same military junta that’s targeted women with sexual violence, forced female protesters to undergo “virginity tests” and largely shut women out of a revolution they helped to lead.
But hopefully they know that the world is watching as Egyptian women stand up and say, “The girls of Egypt are here.”